Theme: Innovations in Urban Food Systems

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AESOP's thematic group Sustainable Food Planning has organized 5 successful European conferences so far. In 2009 the first annual conference was held in Almere (NL), the second one in 2010 in Brighton (UK), the third one in 2011 in Cardiff (UK) and the fourth one 2012 in Berlin (G). The Montpellier conference attracted in October 2013 170 participants recruited from 20 countries.

The bulk of the organizing work was done by Coline Perrin (INRA, UMR Innovation Montpellier, France) and Christophe Soulard (INRA, UMR Innovation Montpellier, France). The conference focused on innovations in the urban food system. Subthemes were: 1. flows and the reframing of urban foodsheds, 2. land and farming for and in the city, 3. governance or the quest for food justice. It brought together researchers from both the Global North and the Global South. As usual the thematic group welcomed scholars, students and practitioners from a wide variety of disciplines; planning is one of them. This meeting was build on interdisciplinary foundations uniting urban and rural planners, architects, with agronomists, economists, sociologists, geographers, political scientists, historians, landscape-ecologists, soil-scientists and others. The exchange of thoughts between theorists and practicing professionals is perceived as an asset.

The book of abstracts is downloadable from the conference website. Only abstracts approved by the review committee are inserted.Here are some highlights. The conference was opened by Catherine Cherbut, Scientific Director food and nutrition of INRA. The first key-note was Nik Heynen, professor of geography at the University of Georgia (USA) about 'Abolition Ecology and Urban Hunger in the City' - an emergent chapter from US urban history with important consequences for contemporary foodscapes. Two more key-notes were delivered by Marielle Dubbeling, director of RUAF-Foundation - an international network of resource centres on urban agriculture and food security - and Mary Njenga, research scientist in urban agroecosystems at the World Agroforstry Centre (ICRAF) and University of Nairobi (Kenya). Njenga's presented a wide array of low tech innovations which are developed in close cooperation between stakeholders in the field and scientists. One innovation being a briquette pressed from cheap leftovers of regular charcoal production and other flammable organic materials makes a difference in the budget of the urban poor in Nairobi, leaving more room for food provision.

On the second day, there were two more key-notes: Paule Moustier, senior researcher at CIRAD, France, who highlighted the specific features of short food chains supplying cities in developing countries, in relation with characteristics of transportation, farmers' strategies and consumer preferences. Robert Gottlieb, professor at Occidental College, Los Angeles (USA) closed the Conference with a presenting an action research agenda on food justice, focusing on equity and disparities and the ways that social movements can bring the food system to change.

In the margins of the conference organizational issues have been settled and a new board has been elected. Professor Kevin Morgan told the attendants that he wanted to give up the position of chair and AESOP-contact, which he took up in 2009. A committee of loyal core-members nominated UK based architect and academic Andre Viljoen as the new chair. Andre was elected by acclamation. He expressed the wish to be supported by a board and a group of advisors. The other members of the board are Arnold van der Valk (NL), who will act as contact with AESOP and secretary, and Coline Perrin (Fr), who will take up the role of coordinator of early career researchers. The group of advisors to the board includes Kevin Morgan, Katrin Bohn and Craig Verzone. Professor Kevin Morgan was thanked for the significant contribution that he made to establish the conference as a dynamic and active forum for international debate and one that welcomes all players in the design and planning of sustainable food systems.

The 2014 annual conference will be in the Netherlands. The newly elected board accepted an offer by Rob Roggema and Gaston Remmers, professors in Van-Hall Larenstein University of Applies Sciences and CAH-Vilentum Almere University of Applied Sciences. We will keep you informed about the upcoming conference, so stay in contact.